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Time for the World to Get 'Fair Dinkum' About World Trade Reform

13 March 2006

WITH no breakthrough from the weekend’s G6 Ministerial meeting in London on international trade arrangements, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is urging the Australian Government and, indeed, all World Trade Organisation (WTO) members, to pull out all stops to ensure the looming WTO negotiations do not falter.

“This WTO Round, launched 1,615 days ago with the promise of substantial improvements in market access, is now in serious meltdown,” Peter Corish NFF President said. “As the clock ticks with just 49 days until the deadline for agreement on agricultural and non-agricultural trade expires (30 April), tangible outcomes appear as distant as ever.

“If commercially significant market access improvements cannot be delivered to farmers and others, the NFF reaffirms its view that our Government should be prepared to block any final deal.

“Minister Vaile, who represented Australia at the London meeting, has acknowledged no substantial breakthroughs were achieved over the weekend, but that all Ministers agreed a successful outcome from the Round would mean the creation of new commercial opportunities… we welcome this, but in reality, we are a long way from such an outcome.

“To date some progress has been made in the area of export competition (subsidies) and in regard to proposed new disciplines and reductions of trade-distorting domestic support, but precious little has been delivered in the key area for Australian farmers – market access, where over 90% of any real trade improvement will come from.

“Market access must be judged on the basis of how much extra trade will flow, and the European Union offers; along with Japan, Switzerland and other members of the G10; are pathetically inadequate. For example, under the current offer on chicken meat just one extra chicken nugget per person per year would be sent from Australia into the EU market. Many of our other commodities face a similar fate.

“It’s time for all WTO members to get serious about this vital issue and find the political backbone necessary to ensure sensible trade reforms are implemented.”

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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